Daily Archives: June 13, 2008

June 13, 2008 — Contents

FRIDAY JUNE 13 CONTENTS

(1) EDITORIAL: Independence Day or . . . Whatever

(2) Annals of Russia’s Unfriendly Skies

(3) Barbaric Race Violence Unchecked in Putin’s Russia

(4) Russia’s Love Affair with Sovietism

(5) Annals of “Pacified” Chechnya

(6) EDITORIAL: Sean Guillory, Three Time Loser

NOTE: Kim Zigfeld’s latest installment on Pajamas Media details the outrageous misconduct of Republican congressman Curt Weldon, who it appears has sold out his country to the Russians. Et tu, Curt? Check it out, and feel free to leave a comment as to how we should deal with this bastard. Are thumb screws too good for him? Should be forced to live in . . . gak . . . Russia? Chelyabinsk, maybe?

EDITORIAL: Independence Day or . . . Whatever

EDITORIAL

Independence Day or . . . Whatever

Yesterday (Thursday June 12th) was a holiday in Russia. As Russian Boris Kagarlitsky explained in the Moscow Times: “First it was called Independence Day in 1991, then, in 1994, it was renamed the Day of the Declaration of the Sovereignty of the Russian Federation, and finally, in 2002, Putin again renamed it Russia Day. On this date in 1990, the Congress of People’s Deputies of the Soviet Russian Republic adopted a declaration of independence from the Soviet Union.”

Kagarlitsky asks an excellent question: “Can you imagine if Britain were to celebrate its independence from India, as if Britain had finally freed itself from India’s 200-year yoke?” Because, of course, it wasn’t Russia that was the slave of the USSR it was the USSR, and all small constituent states that comprised it, that were the slaves of Russia. “Independence Day” is basically just a massive PR gambit to hide this fact from the prying eyes of anyone who might be interested, to try to sweep Russian oppression during Soviet times of places like Ukraine, Georgia and Belarus under the table, to suggest that Russia was as much victimized by the USSR as anyone.

That’s the same outrageous lie that Russians tell about the Ukrainian holocaust that occurred under the rule of Josef Stalin, as we reported earlier this week. Russians pretend that they too perished by the millions from starvation inflicted willfully by Stalin, but they didn’t.

And what do we see today? We see a relentless effort by Russia to reacquire domination over its former Soviet slaves states. Time after time, Russia meddles in local elections, and it is menacing Georgia with military provocation that could explode into war at any moment.

Besides that, as Kagarlitsky points out, Russians suddenly realized the implication of their holiday: “After all, the basic idea of the country’s newfound independence implied that Russia, as one of the great European nations, had become a state only 20 years ago; this was something too denigrating to imagine for many Russians.” And it gets worse: “For some people, June 12 signifies a tragedy because it marks the end of a glorious Soviet era.”

The result? Kagarlitsky concludes: “This kind of ambiguity reflects the overall condition in which Russia finds itself today. Despite the current economic boom, the ruling elite cannot find a common national idea or set of values that are able to unite society. Worse, economic growth has actually increased the country’s internal divisions and social stratification — even more so than during the economic stagnation of the 1990s.”

In other words, situation normal in Russia: All fouled up. Russia is supposedly a new country, yet it is run by a proud KGB spy who won’t give up power, it’s national anthem remains the same, and it won’t even celebrate the demise of the USSR. In fact, it may weep over it, and it is doing all it can to whip up a new cold war with the West.

NOTE: The Moscow Times continues its deplorable custom of honoring these sham holidays by ceasing publication. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Annals of Russia’s Unfriendly Skies

Paul Goble reports:

Russia’s domestic air transportation system – hitherto the only reliable year-round link for many places in that enormous country which lack railways or all-season roads – continues to decline, despite past promises by Vladimir Putin and more recent ones by President Dmitry Medvedev that Moscow will subsidize some routes and build new airports.

In an article posted online today, journalist Natalya Malinina reports that the number of airports in the Russian Federation fell from 1302 in 1991 to 451 in 2002 to 351 in 2007, with 45 more closing I the last year alone and more likely to be forced to close in the coming months because of infrastructure problems.

This decline in the number of domestic airports has been paralleled by an equally precipitous fall in the number of domestic carriers, from a high of 393 in 1994 to 299 in 2000 to 41 today, a fall-off that reflects the failure of many of the spinoffs from the state airline, sometimes known as “baby Aeroflots,” to make a profit. And in addition, the number of Russian airports handling international flights has fallen sharply as well. In the 1990s, many of the country’s regional airports handled flights to neighboring countries both within the former Soviet space and more broadly, but the number doing so now has fallen to 69 and the government plans to reduce that figure to eight.

In addition to the obvious centralizing and isolating consequences of this trend, one far more extreme than was the case in the last years of Soviet power, this post-1991 collapse in domestic air transportation makes it far more difficult for the regions to attract investment from other regions or abroad or thus to retain workers and their families. But a major reason for this collapse lies precisely in a Soviet-era arrangement that the Russian government has not changed. Unlike some forms of transportation infrastructure, airports remain federal property, and consequently, even those regional leaders who would like to spend money to build up these hubs are not able to without Moscow’s permission.

At various points during his presidency, Vladimir Putin promised to do something about domestic air transport. He even made it the subject of a section of his 2004 message to the Duma, but despite his words and those of his subordinates, Moscow did little or nothing even to slow the decline in this sector. With the coming to office of Dmitry Medvedev, some aviation and regional officials have expressed the hope that things may change. On the one hand, they point to Transportation Minister Igor Levitin’s promise in Sochi on May 24th that Moscow will begin to subsidize some regional air routes in order to prevent a further contraction. And on the other, these same officials cite the Kremlin press service report on June 3rd that Medvedev is concerned about the terrible state of the country’s airports, where conditions are now so bad that often “airplanes do not fly” even within a single federation subject let alone among them. But in reporting these hopes, Malinina suggests that Russians should be asking themselves whether those who destroyed the country’s air network can be trusted to rebuild it, whether the subsidies will actually support flying or be corruptly siphoned off, and whether the big plans Moscow has announced for a few places are either possible or safe?

Barbaric Race Violence Unchecked in Putin’s Russia

Radio Free Europe reports:

Kamola, a 36-year-old ethnic-Uzbek woman living in Moscow, was stepping out of a metro carriage on her way to work last month when a blow sent her tumbling to the station’s marble floor. The punch came without warning, dealt by a young man wearing brass knuckles. A second assailant then picked up the woman’s limp body while his friend struck her repeatedly in the face and stomach. “Two men came up from behind and hit me,” she recalls. “First they hit my right eye and then broke my nose and cheekbone. I fainted immediately. I hadn’t done anything wrong, they attacked me because I was veiled.” Kamola doesn’t remember being rushed to a nearby hospital. She regained consciousness four days later with injuries so severe that she now faces major brain surgery and facial reconstruction work. But the mother of two considers herself lucky to be alive. Like most foreigners and ethnic minorities in Russia, she is painfully aware that dozens of people die every year in racially motivated assaults.

According to Sova, a Moscow-based organization that monitors such crimes, extremists have already killed 57 people and wounded another 117 this year in Russia. Only six months into the year, hate-crime figures already look set to exceed those of 2007, when a total of 80 people were murdered. The real number of victims, however, is probably much higher. “The figure of 57 is much lower than some estimates; gathering solid information has become very difficult,” says Galina Kozhevnikova, Sova’s deputy director. “We already wrote last year about our serious difficulties in obtaining information, and this year I can’t even describe how difficult it has become. Such cases are not reported in the media, and law-enforcement agencies don’t give us anything at all.”

Climate Of Impunity

The intensity of the assaults is also on the rise, evolving from simple beatings to torture and mutilation. The cruelty hit a horrifying peak in August 2007, when a video was posted on ultranationalist websites showing a group of masked men killing two dark-skinned captives execution-style. Russia’s Interior Ministry and secret services at first dismissed the grisly footage — in which one of the bound men is beheaded, and the other shot in the head — as a fake.
Some hate-crime experts had also cast doubt on the video’s authenticity until a man in Daghestan recognized the beheading victim as his brother. The Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office on June 5 publicly confirmed the video was genuine. Racism was an unspoken fact of life during the Soviet era, even as the USSR publicly celebrated the utopian harmony of its myriad ethnicities and cultures.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, once-dormant prejudices have been allowed to devolve into active racism — particularly in Russia, where resurgent national pride and heavy labor migration from neighboring states have proven an explosive combination.

The Kremlin has done little to curb the problem. Critics say the government has even poured fuel on the fire with nationalist measures such as the mass deportation of ethnic Georgians in retaliation for the 2006 arrest of Russian officers in Tbilisi, or the ban on all foreign traders in retail markets — a move then-President Vladimir Putin said was intended to protect the interests of “native Russians.”

Russia’s judicial system has been equally reluctant to combat hate crimes. Although the number of prosecutions for racially motivated attacks has increased in recent years, many assailants continue to get away with little more than a slap on the wrist.

At the same time, Russian skinheads and neo-Nazis are seeking to organize their ranks. On June 8, at least four large nationalist groups signed a pact to unite forces in order to better address the problems of “migration and corruption.” An estimated 70,000 Russians are believed to be members of nationalist organizations.

It is undeniable that hate crimes are on the rise. The question is why. Some experts say neo-Nazis and other assailants are reacting to a rare police crackdown earlier this year. Others believe that increasing numbers of young Russians, frustrated by poor educational and professional opportunities, are taking their anger out on migrant workers.

Shift Of Target

Desire Deffo came from Cameroon to St. Petersburg almost two decades ago to study hydrology. Africans, who once flowed into the country to pursue higher education studies, were a primary target of hate crimes in St. Petersburg. But Deffo says assaults against Africans have dropped sharply over the past year — and that Central Asian migrants now appear to be the bearing the brunt of the city’s racist attacks.

“The growing number of arriving Tajiks and Uzbeks work on building sites, in markets, and young Russians are not pleased about that,” he says. “The majority [of Africans] are students, and the attitude toward us has improved. If before dark skin was the main factor, today the migrants’ occupation also plays a role.”

Groups like Sova say Central Asians, the vast majority of whom come to Russia in search of work, have replaced dark-skinned foreigners and people from the North Caucasus as the main victims of racist attacks. Of the 57 people killed this year, 31 are from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Veteran rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina says deep-running ties between government authorities and the construction industry, which depends on cheap Central Asian labor, may help explain the official laxness in combating racist violence. “Now the main victims are people from Central Asia. Authorities allow this to happen because Central Asians are currently the chief resource for slave labor,” she says. “Their vulnerability is profitable to those who exploit them, it’s profitable to have workers who are frightened and broken-spirited. Authorities profit from this because they are closely connected to these structures.” Rampant discrimination, combined with the threat of attacks, have contributed to an atmosphere of fear that puts immigrants under severe emotional and psychological stress.

Gavkhar Dzhuraeva, who heads a Moscow-based support group for migrants, says this anxiety is pushing many to suicide. Other migrants, bent on revenge, have begun to resort to vigilante justice. Dzhuraeva, who herself is an ethnic Tajik, has lived in Moscow for the past 15 years. She speaks flawless Russian and holds a Russian passport. But she feels just as victimized as newcomers. “To feel comfortable,” she sighs, “I’d have to stop looking at myself in the mirror.”

Russia’s Love Affair with Sovietism

Can you imagine how the world would react if a newspaper were able to report: “Germans embrace a longing for all things Nazi”? Should the world’s reaction be any different to the Globe & Mail’s headline: “Russians embrace a longing for all things Soviet”? (The article generated numerous comments, read them here.)

At the Petrovich Club in downtown Moscow, diners pay to eat bland food in rickety chairs around wobbly wooden tables. Modelled after the once ubiquitous stolovayas, or canteens, the décor is a deliberate throwback to the grim and lean Soviet years.

Customers couldn’t be happier.

Photos of red-cheeked and red-tied Pioneers adorn the walls and the shelves are stacked with empty bottles of Portveyne, a ghastly sweet wine once made in Odessa, containing 17.5 per cent alcohol and 9.5 per cent sugar. The Soviet memorabilia makes customers wince in memory – and brings them back time and again.

Its founder, Andrei Bilzho, a former psychiatrist-turned-political cartoonist, opened the club to preserve the cultural artifacts from a regime that died 17 years ago.

Mr. Bilzho said he’s not interested in glorifying the Soviet era. Both his grandfathers were executed during the Stalin regime. The club has no photos of Stalin or Lenin, nor are there any political symbols from the communist era.

But he said the bland food, grim clothing and made-in-the-Soviet-Union appliances that routinely broke down – all these items were unique because they were developed for – and sprang from – a closed society. “It’s about preserving an aesthetic,” he said, during a tour of his club, which has the feel of a museum.

“The culture and food of the era showed that we were behind a curtain. We had Soviet things and now we are losing those things,” Mr. Bilzho said. “Now, we are a part of the world again, so there is nothing special.”

It’s part of a wave of nostalgia for all things Soviet that is sweeping Russia. Restaurants such as the Petrovich Club, serving the plain dishes of the Soviet era – often glued together with heaps of mayonnaise – have sprung up in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Pop singer Oleg Gazmanov’s hit anthem I Was Made in the USSR is popular with listeners old and young, some of whom wouldn’t remember when Ladas ruled the roads. And on May 9, the day Russians celebrate their victory in the Second World War, there were Soviet-themed parties where men and women swirled to music from the 1940s.

The nostalgia movement isn’t a rallying cry to return to the Soviet era. Its followers don’t miss the endless queues, the prison camps, the censorship or sealed borders. But they still miss the sweeter moments, because, despite its horrors, they say, the Soviet Union did have its charms.

“It’s more like an inside joke,” said Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russia Today, an all-news, English-language television network. “There is a lot of making fun of ourselves, making fun of how naive we were. It’s ironic.”

Others say the longing to see and buy Soviet goods runs deeper than mere fashion. For some, the feelings are complex; their memories, a blend of longing and revulsion. Many older Russians, who grew up in the Soviet system, miss the era – warts and all – because it represents their youth.

“Of course it was not a great system,” Mr. Bilzho said. “But for a lot of us, it coincided with the period when we were young, when we were children. It’s impossible to forget that time of your life.”

Younger Russians blog and use chat rooms to reminisce about their Soviet childhoods and swap photos of iconic Soviet memorabilia, including badges from the Komsomol (Communist youth) and sidewalk vending machines that dispensed sparkling water.

“I think everyone has a certain nostalgia for the Soviet Union,” said Zhanna Sribnaya, 37, a Moscow writer. “It’s trendy because people my age, they can buy what they see, and they want to see their happy childhoods. We remember when ice cream cost 7 kopeks and we remember Pioneer camps [similar to Scouts and Brownies] when everyone could go to the Black Sea for summer vacations. Now, only people with money can take those vacations.”

It’s been 17 years since the Soviet Union collapsed, bringing freedom to Eastern Europe and independence to former republics such as Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltic states.

But in Russia, many still view communism’s collapse in terms of what it cost their country: the economic chaos of the 1990s, two brutal wars in Chechnya and the jarring end to its status as a world superpower.

And while many agree that the current nostalgia wave is a fashion trend akin to the 1950s craze that gripped North America in the 1970s, many Russians interviewed said they still grieve for their long, lost country. Enough time has passed since the 1991 collapse of the once mighty empire to give Russians a cooler eye though which to view their former lives. For middle aged and older Russians, the nostalgia wave gives them permission to finally mourn a culture that vanished in a flash. “When the Soviet Union broke up, there was so much resistance to anything Soviet,” Ms. Simonyan said. Overnight, Kvass [a Soviet-made carbonated drink] was out and Coca-Cola and Nike were in. “We had quite a long period where anything Soviet was bad, bad, bad. “Like, one day, we are all wearing red ties to school and you would be sent home if you don’t wear a tie. And the next day, we’re not wearing red ties and we’re not even talking about it. That’s it.”

Today, many Russians talk openly of their Soviet memories: like the days when Moscow’s broad avenues were nearly devoid of cars; when many offices – free from the pressures of a market-driven economy – were places to socialize or catch up on reading; when people gathered in communal apartment kitchens for all-night parties, the only places people felt secure enough to speak openly. It was an era of tyranny, fear and mistrust, they concede. Yet the Communist regime brought a measure of security and social cohesion that was lost when their society opened up. “From kindergarten, we knew that everything would be free: kindergarten, school, university,” Ms. Sribnaya said. “After that, our government would tell us where we would work.”

Even those who staunchly opposed the Communist regime have joined the stroll down Soviet Memory Lane. At the Petrovich Club, customers often bring Mr. Bilzho items dug out from closets that have no currency in the New Russia, like the fish-net bags that Soviets tucked in their pockets, ready to bring out at a moment’s notice if a shop received an unexpected supply of fresh produce. Shopping bags were unheard of in Soviet shops. The most popular dish is selyotka, a layered salad of herring, topped with beets, eggs and, of course, plenty of mayonnaise. Mr. Bilzho wrote and illustrated a book listing his favourite Soviet recipes, accompanied by whimsical stories of the era in which he was obliged to eat them. One story describes the Soviet zeal for butter, which was hard to come by. “I don’t know why but people liked to steal butter,” he wrote. At the psychiatric hospital where he worked, Mr. Bilzho once saw a cook dive into a tall vat of porridge to retrieve the butter that was part of the recipe. “Her head was almost in the porridge,” he wrote. “I could only see her legs hanging out.”

Favourite memorabilia

Soviet products aren’t produced in mass quantity any longer – if at all. But they make regular appearances on blogs and Internet websites devoted to Soviet nostalgia. Some favourites:

Gazirovka v avtomatah: Street vending machines that dispensed carbonated water. You put a few kopeks in and the machine poured the sparkling water into a glass. After drinking the water, customers placed the glass in the vending machine. The same glass was used over and over by different customers.

Samizdat books: These were handwritten copies of the works of censored writers. Only a handful of copies of the forbidden literature was in circulation at any given time. Those who received a copy were expected to write out another copy.

Krasnaya Moskva or Red Moscow: Soviet-made perfume, favoured by older women.

Granyony glass: The toughness of these water glasses was legendary. They wouldn’t break no matter how many times they were dropped. As a result, many Russian kitchen cupboards still have a few of the sturdy drinking glasses.

Galoshy: Sturdy, rubber shoes favoured by female villagers. Nicknamed “goodbye youth” because of how much they aged a wearer.

Avoskya: Netted shopping bags.

Saratov fridge: This Soviet-made appliance was in nearly every Soviet household. Some Russians still own a Saratov, but they’re usually relegated to dachas.

It’s a balmy May evening in an outdoor Moscow theatre courtyard. The hit play, Songs of our Courtyard, is being performed beneath the stars and the audience alternates between tears, applause and bawdy laughter. They come in groups or with family members. Many have seen the show half a dozen times.

Play evokes warm, if dark, memories

For nearly three hours, a group of actors sing a medley of anti-Soviet songs that were staples in prisons, around kitchen tables and in apartment courtyards. They weren’t heard on official radio or television stations, yet most people in the audience know the words by heart and sing along. Shots of vodka and slices of salami are served. Mark Rozovsky, who wrote and directed the musical, has no time for the nostalgia movement. His father spent 18 years in a prison camp and he was raised by his mother and grandmother.

During the Soviet era, he said, the songs were sung by Soviet outcasts: prisoners; émigrés; drunks; and dissidents. “These were human songs, which were born in unbearable times. I hated what we called the Soviet Union. That period of time was so ugly. My performances don’t call people back to that period and I hope we never come back.” And yet, for some audience members, the play evokes warm memories despite its dark premise.

Inessa Pustovoitova, 67, has seen the performance five times. It makes her feel young again. “There was everything in the Soviet Union, good and bad times. It’s our history and you can’t change it. When I’m listening to these songs, I remember a lot of things. My father was an engineer and he was sent to prison for six years. This was the most terrible period of my life,” she said. But the performance elicits joyful memories too, said Ms. Pustovoitova, a retired physicist. “I remember the years that I was a student and worked on a collective farm in the autumn. All the students did it in the Soviet Union.”

And, if given the choice, Ms. Pustovoitova said, she would turn back the clock. Despite the repression, she said, the Soviet system gave her enough to eat. “I want to live in the Soviet Union because old people could live adequately and independently on their pension. Now, you can’t. It’s nothing.”

Song laments loss of Soviet empire

Oleg Gazmanov looks every inch the Western pop star as he bounds across the stage in tight jeans, his rippled arms pumping the air to rev up the crowd. They don’t need much encouragement. They’re singing along to Mr. Gazmanov’s ode to the Soviet Union. “Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova – this is my country,” Mr. Gazmanov croons into his microphone. “Kazakhstan and Caucuses and Baltic states too. I was born in the Soviet Union. I was made in the USSR.”

Mr. Gazmanov’s bandmates wear T-shirts emblazoned with “USSR” labels. The song ends with this lament to the people in the former Soviet republics: “Together we were one big family. We need visas now. How are you without us, our friends?” At 55, Mr. Gazmanov has been churning out hit tunes since the 1970s. His song about the USSR caused a stir in Estonia where a journalist took exception to Mr. Gazmanov’s claim that the Baltics were part of a large, Soviet family. But Mr. Gazmanov makes no apologies about his lyrics. They’re the truth, he said during an interview at a Moscow coffee shop. The Soviet Union was a huge empire that included dozens of republics and nationalities. “That was the country where I was born,” he said. “There were a lot of bad things in the history of the Soviet Union, bloody things. But some European countries had blood periods, too.” Mr. Gazmanov said he wrote the song for Russians who’ve had difficulties adjusting to their new country.

Mr. Gazmanov, who now lives in a Moscow mansion, doesn’t want a return to the Soviet era, but he talks wistfully of the simplicity of the era and the cohesion among Soviets. “Nobody locked their doors. Viktoria Gugkaeva, 52, loves Mr. Gazmanov’s song and agrees Soviet society was simpler and more humane. “I don’t know if it’s necessary to have 100 kinds of sausages in the shops in order to be happy,” said Ms. Gugkaeva, a Moscow teacher. “We had a calmer society and we were happy. I don’t want a return to the Soviet Union. Everything was so primitive. But what is democracy? We don’t know yet.”

Annals of "Pacified" Chechnya

Reuters reports:

A bomb explosion in a cafe in Russia’s turbulent Chechnya region injured eight policemen and four other people on Monday night, investigators said on Tuesday.

“It was a terrorist act,” said Maryam Nalayeva of the Chechen department of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Investigative Committee.

“Investigators have established that a homemade explosive device went off in the cafe. We are working to determine its type,” she said,

Investigators initially said that a domestic gas canister had caused the explosion.

The blast went off on Monday night in the ‘Dallas’ cafe in the Leninsky district of Grozny, the Chechen capital that was devastated by two separatist wars since 1994, but has been largely rebuilt over the past few years.

Russia is eager to portray Chechnya as peaceful, though clashes between local security forces and separatists continue sporadically.

EDITORIAL: Sean Guillory, Three Time Loser

EDITORIAL

Sean Guillory, Three Time Loser

It seems that Mighty Sean Guillory has struck out.

First he tried to solicit outside contributions for his pathetic little excuse for a blog. The only thing that turned up was some sewage produced by that freakish psychopath Mike Averko, and he and Sean were soon on the outs just like Mike and the lunatics at Russia Blog (Mike being too extreme even for extremists). Sean quickly realized that you can’t make a living taking sloppy seconds from lunatics.

Then he tried writing for the conservative Pajamas Media blog (so much for Sean’s supposed liberalism). To date, over the course of ten months he’s produced three articles for PM, and they’ve generated twelve comments (including one from Kim Zigfeld). Speaking of Kim, a person for whom Sean has expressed boundless, haughty contempt, in that time she’s published fifteen articles on PM (you can see them listed on our sidebar), just the most recent pair of which have generated 33 comments, and two more are in the immediate works. Ouch.

And most recently, Sean took to writing for that fetid pail of excrement known as the eXile (so much for Sean’s supposed scholarship). And no sooner had he done so than the Kremlin promptly put his new employer out of business (the eXile, too, had been pathologically critical of Kim, essentially trying to put out a hit on her; Sean, apparently, had no problem with that). It turns out that, contrary to its claims, the eXile was far from a successful enterprise, and its publisher is left holding a well-deserved bag full of debt and crestfallen wet dreams.

It’s more than a little ironic that the last thing Sean “wrote” for the eXile , and one of the last things it will be remembered ever to have published, was a childishly jealous tirade against Boris Nemtsov’s white paper, first published in English here on this blog. Though the respected New York Review of Books (citing our translation) and the prestigious Carnegie Center both lauded the work, as did many others, Sean actually seemed to believe that he alone could perspicaciously see through the miasma and realize that Nemtsov’s work was meaningless (presumably, mostly because it hadn’t been written by Sean). That view is pretty rich coming from an individual with a track record like Sean’s, isn’t it?

If Sean were one-tenth as brilliant as he imagines himself to be, then surely some more scholarly publication would be eager to illuminate the world with his genius. If he were one-fiftieth the proponent of liberalism he claims to be, surely he would have offered the world a defense of it at least twice as significant as Nemtsov has done.

And yet, just as with the others at the eXile, it has not happened.

So we are left to conclude that Sean’s claimed scholarship and liberalism are only, as they often are with academics of his ilk, mere artifices of self-delusion, that the only thing that really matters to Sean is his monumental, condescending arrogance and his contempt for anyone who dares to interfere with it — this includes most of America. It’s a tragedy, really, because as we’ve said before if Sean would only have the humility to confine himself to the topic he actually know about, his research and translations, he could make a contribution to the understanding of Russia. But like Russia itself, Sean seems intent on bashing his thick skull up against the same wall over and over again in the ardent belief that soon it will come crashing down.

The eXile was a filthy little rag which was published by outcasts of the United States, freaks who felt like bigshots when they surrounded themselves with hapless Russians. It sustained itself by hawking those same Russians as mail-order brides to foreigners, and publishing nude photographs of them for the general amusement. It was a prepubescent pile of rat droppings and, sad to say, the world is better off without it.

And they took themselves oh, so seriously. Here’s the rag’s publisher, Mark Ames, bemoaning his fate in RadarOnline:

I started up the Exile 11 years ago with a Russian publisher, and it grew into a kind of cult phenomenon, with an online readership of 200,000 visitors per month, launching the careers of Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi and the “War Nerd,” Gary Brecher, but ensuring that anyone who sticks with the paper is condemned to a life of poverty and paranoia.

So many loyal readers and yet bankrupt. Go figure! Churning out so many awe-inspiring journalist, and yet utterly without allies. How odd!

It’s significant that we are saying that, because as is rather well known we miss few opportunities to criticize Vladimir Putin’s Russia. We’d love to be able to attack him over this, too. But no matter how hard we try, we can’t bring ourselves to shed any tears for the eXile (to be sure, if the situation were reversed, they wouldn’t shed any for us). In an article about our blog, they falsely alleged that we had claimed 100,000 visits when in fact we had claimed 100,000 page views (they characterized our statement, they didn’t quote it). Then they showed a screenshot of our visit counter to prove we didn’t have 100,000 page views. They did all this in direct response to those fanatical opponents of this blog who wish to silence us by any means possible. When we pointed this out, they issued no correction, much less apology.

That was the eXile in microcosm. They had the chance, by practicing Western standards of professional journalism, to prove that those in the West who had spurned them had in fact underestimated them, and they had the chance to teach Russians about what it means to be a courageous professional journalist. Instead, they chose fratboy antics (or perhaps, given their acumen, they had no other choice), launching pathetically lame scatalogical attacks on hard-working professionals who were covering Russia at the world’s leading media outlets as if they held the only true insights on America and Russia on the planet. They really believed that, just like Sean did, and that’s why he was one of them. They drank the Kool Aid.

And that will be the story of them.